- Title: Algorithms and equations help Senegalese designer create fashion brand
- Date: 10th July 2020
- Summary: SAN FRANCISCO, UNITED STATES (RECENT) (REUTERS) COMPUTER SCREEN SHOWING MATHEMATICAL EQUATIONS
- Embargoed: 24th July 2020 10:23
- Keywords: African Fashion Diarra Bousso Diarrablu Senegalese heritage maths and fashion sustainable fashion
- Location: SAN FRANCISCO, UNITED STATES/DAKAR, SENEGAL
- City: SAN FRANCISCO, UNITED STATES/DAKAR, SENEGAL
- Country: USA
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment,Fashion
- Reuters ID: LVA001CM85U8N
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Mathematical equations may not seem to go hand in hand with fashion. Senegalese designer Diarra Bousso believes otherwise - and she's done the math.
The multidisciplinary artist and former Wall Street trader can usually be found going through mathematical equations and algorithms that will go into the designs of her textiles.
At her studio in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Diarra uses plots lines and curves into shapes that are then handpainted based on a colour scheme that Diarra decides on.
"So that flower that we saw earlier can turn into this, this by changing the variables. In this case it's scatter, going from 0 to 12pi," she said.
Diarra has dreamt of being a fashion designer since she was little girl.
Her dream unexpectedly became a reality when she joined a mathematics program at Stanford. She was inspired to use math and graphing equations to capture her creative process, finally marrying her two passions; mathematics and fashion design.
"In my free time, I would draw these parabolas and these lines, and these things we are learning, kind ask myself why should the kids care? And in the process of doing so, patterns would come up, some graphing, doodling and this is what I would kind of do in my free time, when I am in the train, when I am seated waiting at the restaurant. I am just drawing, doodling, doing all these lines. When I would finish, I'd be like wow this is amazing, but then I can't create it again because it was all by hand on a piece of paper. And I have hundreds and hundreds of pages and papers like this, and I was like, what if I could save this somewhere, what if I could come to the doodle and adjust it. What if I don't like the doodle and want to change it?" she added.
Despite her of experience in the fashion industry, Diarra forged ahead and launched her fashion line in 2015.
In September 2019, she won the coveted Designer in Residence at the San Francisco Fashion Incubator.
But she's still very much hands-on creatively and technically.
"Each shape can be represented by a mathematical equation, and now when you put all these equations together, you can create lots and lots of shapes, which is nothing new. I think what the part that makes this different is that when you can actually code it all and generate it with an algorithm, meaning a process telling the computer, graph this line, graph this equation, find where they intersect, make it blue, do this, do that, now the computer is drawing for you. But you have to sell it. I am not using machine learning or AI yet, right now I am still working on the algorithm myself," she said.
Diarra claims she's ahead of the curve even in an industry currently being disrupted by technological innovation.
One strong empirical example is the advent of online fashion shops that exploit artificial intelligence and data analylitics.
Diarra has another example. She says she doesn't produce anything unless she has an order after she developed a digital-first, on-demand production mode to avoid creating excess inventory.
"I feel like we are already in the future, because nobody else in the industry is doing what we are doing. This a brand new concept that came out of, I wasn't planning to innovate or disrupt anything, but I think it happened as a result of trying to solve a problem, which for me was I need to sleep, I can't teach and design at the same time. That was the problem I trying to solve. Now it's solving a bigger problem of I have thousands of options now, and I can decide what to make before even ready. So I think in terms of innovation, it's allowing me to be quite ahead in terms of cost savings. I produce in a fraction of the time, and I produce a hundred times more in terms of design ideas. I like to say ideas because I don't actually print the fabrics until I know I need them. So I am able to know from a customer preference standpoint, I know what customers want because I can generate so many other ideas and test them live every single day without having to spend anything on production and I can produce what is needed from a sustainable stand point, we don't have wastage," Diarra said.
Diarra travels between her native Senegal and San Francisco, where she still teaches high school math, as well as math research with Stanford University professors in order to design creative math curriculum for teachers.
She opened her fist flagship store in her home country of Senegal in 2019.
95 per cent of Diarra's products are handcrafted in her Dakar workshop, where she employs 15 people. The remaining 5 per cent is made through collaboration with ethical factories around the world.
Her designs have been featured in the fashion bible - Vogue magazine - as well as other fashion magazines such as Elle and Glamour amongst others.
As an African woman in an industry where black creatives and designers still face roadblocks, Diarra says she wants to use her new found recognition to celebrate the work of those who are yet to be recognized.
"People like me don't get celebrated much in the industry. And when I have that opportunity I want to make noise for all of us. And that's the goal, that's the goal of the work I do, and that's the purpose of, and that's why it's so important for me to when I talk about algorithm. It's like yes, we are merging algorithms and tradition. We are not just using algorithms and that's it. I come from a place that deserves to be celebrated and it's the core of who I am and it's the core of what I do," she adds.
Having dabbled in ready-to-wear, footwear and accessories, Diarra has continued to build her brand and skews.
The Diarrablu brand recently launched its first artwork collection during quarantine.
Diarra says she wants to keep telling stories celebrating her African heritage, while innovating by using technology sustainably.
She plans to expand into home goods soon.
(Production: Jane Ross, Lisa Ntungicimpaye)
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: Footage contains computer game or software screenshots. User is responsible for obtaining additional clearances before publishing this clip.